By Meaghan Baxter
EDMONTON — “I won’t play in bands with people I’m not friends with,” says Ben Sir, vocalist for local punk rockers Worst Days Down.
That self-proclaimed stubbornness appears to have worked out for the best, though. Sir, who began playing solo acoustic gigs under the name Worst Days Down about seven years ago, never intended to make the project a full-time one-man endeavor; he always imagined the songs he was writing being fleshed out by a band, but he wanted to be selective about who he brought on board.
“I’ve seen [bands] work with people who just look at it purely professionally and that’s cool,” he continues. “I’ve also seen people outwardly dislike one another, and that makes so little sense to me… How can you have that feeling of mutual camaraderie and really believe in what you’re doing if you don’t even want to be in the same room as one another, let alone spend seven or eight months on the road with each other?”
Jerome Tovillo (drums), Kevin Klemp (guitar/vocals) and Matt Murphy (bass/vocals) proved to be the ideal additions, and Worst Days Down transitioned from a solo acoustic act to a full-fledged band in March 2014 after Sir returned from Vancouver to run The Buckingham.
“I fully moved out there with the intention of [staying] and focusing on music and not working in bars,” recalls Sir, but a phone call from a friend eventually changed that. “A friend of mine called me and said, ‘We want you to move back to Edmonton so you can open a bar and focus on music—I moved back to open the Buckingham—and the deal was that a bunch of us who play in bands could work there, and [the deal] would be that when we’re there we work our butts off, but then when we have to go on tour we can do that.” Tovillo, Klemp and Murphy are all involved in other bands too. Tovillo and Murphy are members of Audio/Rocketry, Klemp is in Fire Next Time and Sir continues to play with Etown Beatdown. Everyone was on board with Sir’s idea.
Along with several digital releases, Sir put out a solo Worst Days Down record called Money, God and Other Drugs in 2013. Now, the guys are ready to release their first physical album featuring the band’s full lineup, Elsewhere, on March 3. Worst Days Down’s first release through the intrepid Gunner Records out of Germany, began to take shape a number of years ago and features a mix of familiar tracks along with some recent numbers. “It’s kind of cool that half the album is songs that I played by myself but with a very specific idea in mind. It was cool halfway through playing acoustically to start thinking intentionally, ‘I want to record this with a full band, that’s what it’s going to be,’” Sir says. “So half the album I’d say I had ready by the time we started playing [together], but over the last couple of years we started to learn to be a band together.”
Since the majority of the tracks on Elsewhere have existed in one form or another over the past few years, it provided the band with a solid stylistic foundation to use as a starting point for the record. Sir says any challenges came with helping the rest of the group feel a sense of connection to the more personal songs he had composed. The guys added their own touches to various elements of the record and expanded existing ideas, which Sir notes helped foster a sense of connection and camaraderie surrounding it.
Though unintentional, the evolution of Worst Days Down aligns well with the poignant notions of change and movement that permeate Elsewhere—whether that translates into seeing familiar places in a different light or even lack of movement as one’s idealized life of adventure is replaced by complacency in the suburbs. “There’s these little personal things that I really enjoy about the album, because I feel like I was able to be more deliberate with it. I think for the first time I had an idea of what I was doing, whereas with previous albums it was just like, ‘I have a song, let’s record it, let’s get out there and go on tour. It’ll be great.’”
Elsewhere is barely released but the band is already looking ahead at working on the follow-up, which will be the first album comprised of entirely new material. Sir concedes it’s taking some work to settle into a cohesive style with four members having a hand in crafting each song. New ideas have spanned everything from dropped tuning all the way to thrash metal, but don’t expect Worst Days Down’s collaborative effort to switch gears entirely.
“We haven’t had any specific conversations about where do we go from here?” he says, noting he’d like to see the second album released a year from now after the band tours Europe and North America to support Elsewhere. “It’s exciting, but [Elsewhere] needed to take some time in order for us to learn how to be a band, to get the songs ready. It was not easy to sit on it for a year. I was going pretty stir crazy about it. But now I realize it took every bit of that time to do it properly. Now I think we’re like, ‘OK, we’ve got this motivation, let’s get to work.’”
Worst Days Down release Elsewhere on March 3rd and will play a release the following day at Queen Alex Hall in Edmonton.AB, Alberta, Edmonton, Elsewhere, Queen Alex Hall, Worst Days Down